Grounded Reinforcement Learning: Learning to Win the Game under Human Commands

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 35 (NeurIPS 2022) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Shusheng Xu, Huaijie Wang, YI WU


We consider the problem of building a reinforcement learning (RL) agent that can both accomplish non-trivial tasks, like winning a real-time strategy game, and strictly follow high-level language commands from humans, like “attack”, even if a command is sub-optimal. We call this novel yet important problem, Grounded Reinforcement Learning (GRL). Compared with other language grounding tasks, GRL is particularly non-trivial and cannot be simply solved by pure RL or behavior cloning (BC). From the RL perspective, it is extremely challenging to derive a precise reward function for human preferences since the commands are abstract and the valid behaviors are highly complicated and multi-modal. From the BC perspective, it is impossible to obtain perfect demonstrations since human strategies in complex games are typically sub-optimal. We tackle GRL via a simple, tractable, and practical constrained RL objective and develop an iterative RL algorithm, REinforced demonstration Distillation (RED), to obtain a strong GRL policy. We evaluate the policies derived by RED, BC and pure RL methods on a simplified real-time strategy game, MiniRTS. Experiment results and human studies show that the RED policy is able to consistently follow human commands and achieve a higher win rate than the baselines. We release our code and present more examples at